WHY THE PRESS
FAILED ON SPAIN!
JOSEPH F. THORNING, Ph.D., Litt,D.
Professor o£ Sociology and Social History at Mt. St. Mary's College,
Emmitsburff, Maryland .
INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY
407 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, N. Y,
By Reverend Edward Lodge Curran, Ph.D.
Since the revolt of the Spanish People against the Red
Loyalist Government, which forced its way into power by
the violent and fraudulent elections of February, 1936,
many pamphlets have been written about Spain.
The revolt of the Spanish Nationalists opened in the
month of July, 1936. Step by step the Nationalists under
the magnificent leadership of General Franco have rescued
Spain from the bloody tyranny of the Leftist forces of
the Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona dictatorship.
For years the American Press has boasted of its devotion
to fair play and to impartiality. We have witnessed, how-
ever, the transformation of too many members of the
American Press into a propaganda machine for the Red
Cause of the Red Loyalists in Spain,
These members of the American Press have lost the
right even to be considered accurate. When the press of
the rest of the world had repudiated the malicious lies
about the supposed massacres in Badafos and about the
supposed desecration of the holy (?) city of Guernica,
much of the American Press continued to repeat the
We consider this pamphlet to be one of the most im-
portant yet produced on the Spanish affair. It will warn
all American readers against the biased reports served to
them on a propdganda platter and falsely included on the
literary menu as "news."
The Catholic Church does not fear truth. Jt fears half'
truths and prejudice. Father Thorning*s pamphlet is the
whole truth. Father Thorning has earned the gratitude
>of the American nation as a whole for writing it.
WHY THE PRESS FAILED ON SPAIN!
By JOSEPH F. THORNING, PH.D., Litt.D.
Professor of Sociology and Social History at Mt. St. Mary's College,
IN the first place, it is just to acknowledge that the great
metropolitan journals and international news services
printed most of the important material which proved the close
connection between Moscow and Madrid. On November 1, for
example, both the New York Times and the New York Herald-
Tribune gave detailed descriptions of the Madrid-Valencia-Bar-
celona celebration of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of
the Union of Socialist and Soviet Republics. Furthermore, both
the Associated Press and the United Press laid profound stress
upon the significance of the Anarchist and Syndicalist movements
in Catalonia. The reporting of William P. Carney, especially
as exemplified in the despatch to the New York Times on De-
cember 7, 1936. showed a high degree of journalistic responsi-
bility and personal courage. It should be noted that he confined
himself to straight news stories and never allowed himself to be-
come a propagandist either for Largo Caballero or Generalissimo
On the other hand, the New York Times kept Herbert L.
Matthews as its special correspondent in Madrid long after he
had abandoned any pretense to serve as anything more or less
than a rabid Red partisan. To prove this, one has merely to
contrast the stories of Mr. Matthews with the impressions of the
Socialist leader, Sam Baron (New York Times, November 15,
1937) or with the tenor of despatches of independent observers
that have appeared in the New York Times from time to time
(e.g., New York Times, November 9, 1937).
Upon analysis the reports of Mr. Matthews are revealed as
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
nine-tenths "interpretations" of official policy or "human inter-
est" narratives of events behind the Red front. He has earned
the sobriquet of the "Walter Duranty of Red Spain/' To tell
the truth, this is a reflection upon Duranty because the latter
has almost invariably retained an apparent detachment in his
despatches from Moscow. Incidentally, the contradiction be-
tween what Walter Duranty really saw and believed and what
he put on the wires to the New York Times is graphically de-
scribed by that well-known one-time representative of the United
Press in Russia, Eugene Lyons, in his brilliant study, Assignment
in Utopia. Duranty himself plunged into the Spanish whirlpool
and wrote some stories from Catalonia that make interesting
museum-pieces today. A number of his confident predictions
failed to come true, and so he is no longer writing as he pleases
The Lies About Badctjos
The false report of the "massacre" of Badajos has been so fre-
quently and so thoroughly pulverized that it may seem strange
to repeat the refutation. I intend to address myself briefly to
this task because no less an author than John Gunther, eager
to exploit the latest development in the international arena,
wrote a special chapter on Spain in the new edition of his book,
Inside Europe. This chapter gives no indication that John
Gunther has been "inside Spain," at least since the outbreak of
hostilities. Inasmuch as Mr. Gunther's volume has achieved a
place on the best-seller list in the non-fiction field, it may be
worth while to examine some of his statements about Badajos
and other alleged atrocities of the Nationalists.
Mr* Gunther writes as follows (p. 174): "Previously, at Bada-
jos on the Portugese border, 4,000 loyalist civilians and militia-
men were captured by Franco's men and machine-gunned in the
There is no excuse for this rehearsal of falsehood because,
prior to the publication of the refurbished edition of Inside
Why the Press Failed on Spain! 5
Europe, the legend of Badajos has been completely demolished
by Major Geoffrey McNeill-Moss in his thrilling narrative, The
Siege of the Alcazar. Major McNeill-Moss shows how the "mas-
sacre" of Badajos was announced to the American public under
the signature of N. Reynolds Packard, the well-known correspon-
dent of the United Press. In a valuable appendix (No. 2, pp.
305-313) the British officer records Mr. Packard's own repudiation
of the story given to the English-speaking world under his name.
The authenticity of the report was also denied by Webb Miller,
the European news manager of the United Press, in a letter he
wrote to The Manchester Guardian. Major McNeill-Moss sub-
jects to careful analysis two other despatches about the same
incident (pp. 118-123) and then clinches the case with the testi-
mony of Captain Francis McCullagh, a correspondent whose in-
tegrity is above cavil. The words of Captain McCullagh are
emphatic (p. 123): "I went thoroughly into that question and
satisfied myself that no Red who surrendered at Badajos was
shot. * * * I have been . unable to find any Englishman or
American who saw with his own eyes any shooting of unarmed
men by the nationalists."*
As early as April, 1937, Douglas Jerrold, writing in The Nine-
teenth Century, added this impressive testimony: "The 'mas-
sacre' at Badajos I knew to be a lie, because it was announced
in the French Press of the Left two days before Badajos fell. * * *"
Mr. Jerrold does not hesitate to say that this example is "only
one in an unbroken series of deliberately invented fictions which
have been foisted on the English and American public."
The point to be noted is that all this testimony was available
to John Gunther when he undertook to write his chapter on
* The story of Mr. Jay Allen may be disregarded inasmuch as he
tilmself acknowledges that he arrived eight days late. Cf. From
Spanish Trenches, edited by Marcel Acier, pp, 3-8.
6 Why the Press Failed on Spain!
the war in Spain. Even a perfunctory desire or search for the
truth would have led him inevitably to die book of Major
McNeill-Moss and the articles of Douglas Jerrold. Mr. Gunther
did not give a single hint that would help an unsuspecting reader
to explore the question further. In his recital there is not the
echo of a doubt or misgiving about the lie which he is propagat-
ing. In the supposition that he accepted the original unreliable
reports about Badajos, would not he, a responsible journalist
who makes bold to embody his views of current history in a
book, be obligated to indicate, at least in a foot-note, that his
sources were under fire and that an analysis of the available evi-
dence might be found in a previously published volume?
It is possible that Mr. Gunther did not know about the repudi-
ations of the Badajos slaughter signed by N. Reynolds Packard
and Webb Miller. It is possible that he did not read The Siege
of the Alcazar. If this is his defense for the propagation of
falsehood, it is nothing more or less than a plea of culpable
ignorance. If, as seems more likely, he had some inkling of the
doubt that had been cast upon the original story, he can hardly
be credited with a very high degree of intellectual honesty.
Even Reviewers Nod
Of course, every atrocity story accumulates blood in its dis-
semination. The Badajos "massacre" is no exception. Ramon
Sender in Counter-Attach in Spain (p. 123) speaks about the
14,000 murders committed by Franco in Navarre, the 30,000 shot
in Badajos, die 27,000 in Granada. . . ." These reckless state-
ments escaped the eye of the reviewer (Charles Poore) in the
New York Times because Counter- Attach in Spain is a book for
which he had nothing but unqualified praise (November 12,
1937). The least critical reviewer, had he read the volume,
would have pointed out that the figure of 30,000 murders at
Badajos was a 26,000 increment over the 4,000 victims claimed
Why the Press Failed on Spain! 7
Consistency is not one of John Gunther's strong features. In
his highly eulogistic introduction to M. W. Fodor's Plot and
Counter-Plot in Central Europe he writes as follows: "Fodor is
here. * * * He has the most peculiar comprehensive knowledge
of central Europe of any journalist I know; all Europe for that
matter." This fulsome praise is repeated on the jacket blurb
of Fodor's book.
Russia in Spain
Now let us compare the information communicated by John
Gunther with that furnished by M. W. Fodor. In Inside Europe
Gunther makes the blunt statement (p. 176): "No Russian troops
arrived in Spain. * * * " On the other hand, Fodor, the omni-
scient, is rather explicit (p. 293): "The Russian Army has
changed. As the Spanish war revealed, it is one of the best-
equipped and best-trained of armies, and it has the largest air
force in the world." Either Gunther or Fodor is mistaken.
Both cannot be infallible on Spain.
It is far more interesting and more important to contrast one
of the claims of John Gunther, the Walter Winchell of the
European scene, with the facts presented by Captain Anthony
Eden, Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, in the House of Com-
mons. In his chapter on Spain, Gunther (p. 183) describes the
Non-intervention agreement as a "monstrous fiction." He then
adds: "This was an almost fatal handicap to the loyalists. They
could get nothing in from France and not much from the U.S.S.R.
But Italy and Germany sent great quantities of arms and men
to Spain before die pact was signed, and after its signature it
seemed that they violated it almost at will."
Answering David Lloyd George in Parliament Foreign Secre-
tary Eden declared (New York Times, November 1, 1937): "The
result of Nyon has been to facilitate the arrival of very large
quantities of material arriving in Spanish Government ports. Of
course there have been enormous quantities of material arriving
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
at Spanish Government ports throughout the year. Official So-
viet Government figures show that Spain now is Soviet Russia's
third best customer. From January to September of this year
Russia shipped to Spain nearly 10 times as much in weight and
four and one-half times as much in value as during the corre-
sponding period in 1936. During the summer months of this
year I could not stand at this box and tell the House that during
that period there was more material reaching the Insurgent
forces than was reaching the Government forces." The differ-
ence between the two statements is simply that Gunther drew
upon his imagination and Eden levied tribute upon the trade
reports of the Soviet Union.
Confident assertion is one thing; the establishment of proof
another. Mr. Gunther utilizes the first method when he writes
(p. 166): "It is now established beyond any doubt that German
and Italian intervention occurred months before Russian help
readied Spain." It would be useful to have the evidence upon
which this assertion is based. John Gunther does not support
his statements with fact; nor does any other author I have
studied. Early in September the Gazette de Lausanne, noted for
the soundness of its news and of its editorial views, published
considerable evidence to show that the Italian and German help
to Franco had to be hastily improvised due to the fact that
Mussolini and Hitler were taken by surprise by the speed and
weight of Russian intervention.
Diplomat Blames Moscow
Similar testimony, even more convincingly presented, is given
by Sir Francis Lindley, G.C.M.G., C.B., former British Ambas-
sador to Japan. In an article, "The Tragedy of Spain," pub-
lished in The National Review (February, 1937), Sir Francis
traces the origin of Soviet intervention to its ideology of exploit-
ing every "revolutionary situation." The British diplomat de-
clares: "The plain fact is clear to all who wish to see. The
Why the Press Failed on Spain! 9
Spanish civil war would have been a purely internal affair had
it not been for Moscow. No other Power would have had either
reason or wish to intervene. Once the Bolsheviks set the exam-
ple, others were certain to come in on the opposite side. And
it is a delusion to believe that, with no foreign intervention, the
Government would have won. With Spaniards left to them-
selves everything points to a swift victory outside Catalonia for
General Franco, who had at his disposal all the trained forces
and the military skill of the country."
Edward H. Knoblaugh of the Associated Press, who was in an
excellent position to judge, assures us (p. 174) that "the foreign
assistance Loyalist Spain was receiving was successfully minimized
while that given the enemy assumed staggering proportions."
The same writer estimated that the Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona
Government has about 110,000 Russians, French, German, Ital-
ian, American, Polish, English, Czech and Bulgarian volunteers
fighting on its side. Of these, about 35,000 were killed, leaving
some 75,000 still fit for service. (Correspondent in Spain, Ed-
ward H. Knoblaugh, p. 217). This estimate is confirmed by
Brig.-Gen. P. R. C. Groves of The Observer (London).
The Lies About Guernica
The crowning achievement of Red propaganda, however, was
the report of the destruction of the ancient Basque holy city of
Guernica. Gunther accepts the story at its face value. He
writes as follows (pp. 176-177): "German aviators bombed and
destroyed Guernica, the holy city of the Basques, the first in-
stance in history of the complete and willful obliteration of a
whole city, non-combatants as well as fighters, by bombing and
machine-gunning from the air." In this case Mr. Gunther is
able to cite as his authority, G. L. Steer of The Times, London.
The latter, as we know from his own admission, was eight and
one-half miles from the scene of the event he attempted to relate.
He has been contradicted by The London Times correspondent
who was with the Nationalist forces.
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
The Havas Agency and a committee of international corre-
spondents who investigated the report positively affirmed that
most of the damage they saw was wrought by deliberate destruc-
tion by fires from the ground. The damage done by Franco's
planes was insignificant in comparison with the havoc perpe-
trated by gasoline flames kindled by Spanish anarchists in their
retreat. It should also be noted that Guernica was the site of an
arms factory, just as Eibar, and a military position in the path
of an advancing army. The Steer despatch was at best an inade-
quate and misleading story.
Here again, the Reds are convicted by the character of their
own propaganda. The Spanish Embassy in Washington has
published thousands of brochures with pictures purporting to
show the destruction wrought by German bombs in Guernica.
The "pidce de resistance" of this exhibit, occupying the center
pages of the brochure, is a picture of rows upon rows of upright
walls, roofless and blackened. The photograph is a "fake." It
may be a picture of Verdun or St. Quentin immediately after
tb.e World War, but it is not a reproduction of anything in Gu-
ernica. Other photographs in the same brochure, actually taken
on the spot, prove nothing except that the principal damage
was done by incendiarism and not by bombs. As Douglas Jer-
rold points out, in a case of this kind the outside walls of a
bombed house will never be left intact. The pock-marks left
on the streets of Guernica due to exploding bombs are relatively
few compared to the unmistakable scars inflicted by fire.
A Hitherto Unpublished Telegram
Immediately upon receipt of the initial report by Steer, both
The Times, London, and the New York Times wrote editorial
denunciations of German fliers and General Franco. Within a
few days The Times, London, had reason to suspect the accuracy
of the Steer report and sent him the following hitherto undis-
closed telegram, of which I submit a photostatic copy:
Why the Press Failed on Spain! 11
ORD 88 LONDON 16 4 12S1
STEER HOTEL TORRONTEGUI BILBAO
VIEW OTHER SIDES DISMISSAL YOUR GUERNICA STORY
FURTHER JUDICIOUS STATEMENT DESIRABLE— TIMES
The New York Times still has to make an "amende honorable"
for three savagely partisan editorials about the Guernica affair.*
Nor has Senator William E. Borah retracted his widely pub-
licized speech on Guernica, a statement that was obviously based
on one-sided information. It is to be regretted that the Senator
does not show the same commendable zeal in tracing down the
truth on this episode, so important in the sphere of Red propa-
ganda, as he displayed in demonstrating the facts about George
Washington's sentiments with respect to foreign relations. When
the Senator is correct, he is eager to discover the truth; when he
is mistaken, as he certainly was in the case of Guernica, he takes
refuge in silence. He assumed the responsibility of making the
U.S. Senate a sounding-board for the dissemination of a one-
sided and partisan distortion of the news.
The Propaganda Machine
Most competent newspaper correspondents are now aware of
how woefully the public was deceived about Guernica. Edward
H. Knoblaugh, an Associated Press writer of considerable repu-
tation, describes the workings of the Red propaganda machine
in his recent book entitled Correspondent in Spain. He dis-
misses the incident in a single paragraph:
"The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica was one of
the most fortunate bits of material for the propaganda machine.
Guernica had an arms factory. It was used as a Loyalist military
base, and it was in the path of Franco's march on Bilbao. But
the government propaganda workers exploited the. fact that Gu-
* Following The Times (London) , which published a repudiation
of the original Guernica report (December 14, 1937), the New York
Times on December 27 acknowledged Guernica had been destroyed
Why the Press Failed on Spain:
ernica had a venerated oak tree in a central plaza. The bom-
bardment became 'an atrocious attack on the defenseless, holy
city of the Basques'. It aroused such a wave of indignation
abroad that not even the joint statement of disinterested corre-
spondents, testifying that the principal damage had been caused
by anarchist incendiaries and Asturian dynamiters before they
evacuated Guernica, carried much weight."
Russell Palmer, a prominent publisher who is both a Protes-
tant and a Mason, made a special investigation to determine
what happened at Guernica. He reports to us in these words
(N.C.W.C. News Service despatch as it appeared in the Brooklyn
Tablet, November 20, 1937):
"I explored the ruins of Guernica very exhaustively and be-
lieve that anyone who does so will come to the same conclusion
that I did, viz., that the town was dynamited by retreating
Basques. I took a number of photographs of Guernica which
showed damage which could not possibly have been effected
from the air."
Still Fall for Lies
The responsibility of the press for the fable of Guernica is the
greater when we consider that after 10 months of experience the
newspapers and news agencies had discovered plenty of reason
to suspect the propaganda bulletins put forth by the Madrid-
Valencia-Barcelona Government. Every one of these newspapers
printed the false reports about the capture of the Alcazar. On
July 29, 1936, Madrid announced the surrender of this fortress.
A communique* informed Europe that the Nationalists, crowded
into the underground structure, had given up all resistance.
"They gave themselves up" — the communique reported — "after
a last warning from the governmental forces, who had menaced
them with another attack. Officers and Civil Guards came out
of the fortress, unarmed, in groups of five. Complete order has
been established in Toledo." (The Siege of the Alcazar, By
Henri Massis and Robert Brasillach, p. 24). The truth, as the
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
whole world now knows, was quite different. And yet the
American newspapers continued to be; deceived.
Actual evidence has little influence upon "special writers"
who come to Spain to find material to fit their preconceived
ideas. They are blind to unpleasant realities and invent ex-
cuses for the most obvious brutalities of the Anarchistic ele-
ments. One of this type visited Mr. Knoblaugh with a view
to getting some help for his series of feature articles. Confessing
his utter ignorance of the Spanish language and of Spanish cus-
toms, he asked the Associated Press man to guide him through
the mazes of necessary background material. His first question
"What can you tell me about the reported killing of Rightist
non-combatants behind the lines — these 'ride' victims we have
Knoblaugh reported the well-known facts. Unfortunately,
more than 50,000 innocent citizens of Madrid had been killed
by the Reds without trial,
"I don't believe it!" shouted the feature writer. "Nothing
anyone can tell me will make me believe it. I think you must
be a Fascist!"
As a result, the veteran newspapermen, those who won their
spurs in the pre-war days in Spain, have one by one found the
climate unhealthy under the new regime Their familiarity with
the language and the habits of the people, their carefully built
up circle of news contacts, and their knowledge of political per-
sonages and happenings made it difficult for the government
to reduce them to servitude. Their long experience in the penin-
sula would not permit them to accept statements directly at vari-
ance with their trained judgment and personal observation.
Since they could not be "co-Ordinated" with the new sources of
news, they were either rendered practically useless to their em-
ployers by a succession of petty privations or else sharply warned
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
that the police would no longer be responsible for their personal
If a newspaperman in this distressing situation received ade-
quate support from his home office, he might have been able
to take the added risks which attend truth-telling.
He is not inclined to invite reprisals when he knows that the
men who publish or edit his paper in the United States are eager
to feature Popular Front victories (Correspondent in Spain,
Edward H. Knoblaugh, p. 198).*
A striking example of this attitude is to be found in the files
of the New York Times. As soon as G. L. Steer put his Guernica
story on the wires, the editorial board of the Times was hard
at work on an editorial excoriating the Nationalists under die
inflammatory heading, Mass Murder in Guernica. On May 1,
a second editorial branded the alleged bombing as a "climax of
cruelty. * * *" The final editorial blast came on May 7, long
after every responsible editor in New York and London had
ample reason to doubt the misleading report of Mr. Steer. The
latter knew well enough that the three editorials reflected the
attitude of the men who were paying him. If he hadn't sus-
pected where the sympathies of his employers lay before this
date, he could easily conclude that in their eyes at least the
Guernica incident "si non e" vero, e ben trovato."
Knoblaugh relates that the first cabled "bouquet" which
reached him from his New York office was a hurried re-write of
a prepared article that he had received from the Red propaganda
bureau. "The queer feeling I had upon receiving this message,"
he writes, "may be better understood if I add that, despite our
* Sometimes the treatment is subtle. An article by Miss Virginia
Cowles in the New York Times Magazine, January 9, 1938, was en-
titled "Behind the Fighting Fronts in the Two Clashing Spains."
Upon analysis the essay discloses that Miss Cowles briefly visited
only San Sebastian and Santander in the Nationalist territory,
although she had obviously spent considerable time in Madrid,
Valencia and Barcelona. What about Seville, Malaga, Salamanca,
Bilbao, Granada and Valladolid?
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
months of hard and dangerous work at the fronts, and despite
innumerable 'scoops' won by painstakingly cultivating scores of
contacts on the possibility of a sometime return on our invest-
ment of time and money, this was the first such message any of
us in the Madrid bureau had received since the beginning of the
war." (Correspondent in Spain, Edward H. Knoblaugh, p. 178).
It would be a dull reporter who would not learn a lesson from
such an experience.
Privileges for Favorites
Some of the correspondents in Red Spain get along famously
with the authorities. There are privileges for those who broad-
cast the government point of view. It is natural to want to
please those with whom one lives and associates. The sharper
the competition for the news, the more important it is not
to be exposed to delays in matters of housing, food, censorship,
cable and telephone facilities. The "objective" correspondent
can be penalized in a hundred covert ways. It is hard to see
a rival admitted to the front line trenches during or after a
battle, to read the thrilling "human interest" stories that are
the fruit of fraternization with officers and men, to realize that
your home office is daily becoming disappointed at the lack of
local color in your own despatches.
On the other hand, the price of favors is conformity. The
moment a correspondent shows that he is willing to be a rubber
stamp for the Popular Front hand-outs, he is a welcome guest
at many interesting conclaves; passes are provided for the most
advanced positions; the assignment in Madrid turns into a series
of wonderfully pleasant adventures. But should he show his
ingratitude, as Edward H. Knoblaugh reports, by putting into
practice "the fine old American newspaper tradition of investi
gating and corroborating the government's news reports before
sending them, there will be rough weather ahead." (Correspon-
dent in Spain, Edward H. Knoblaugh, p. 190). Knoblaugh him-
self as well as William P. Carney, Roland Winn (Reuter's),
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
John Allwork (Renter's), and Jane Anderson, an American free-
lance writer, are only a few who escaped assassination in the
course of their conscientious performance of duty in Red Spain.
Of course, some journalists need no persuasion to undertake
the work of propaganda- Long before their appointment to
Spain they were in the radical ranks and each day's work is a
new opportunity for promoting the cause. A number in this
category actually accept the status of "political agents." They
help to create stories which are distributed by the Ministry of
Propaganda to the neutral correspondents.
Won Three Times Area of Spain
One correspondent took the pains to add up the officially re-
ported "victories" of the Red government for the first eight
months of the war. The results he portrayed were fantastic,
showing that on paper the Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona Govern-
ment had won territory totaling three times the complete area
of Spain; killed or wounded about six times the total number
of men General Franco had under arms and captured prodigious
stores of artillery and munitions,* The fact was that General
Franco, according to William P. Carney, of the New York Times,
waged his final campaign in the North with equipment seized
from the enemy to the extent of 60 percent.
In another chapter of his book, Correspondent in Spain
(p. 145), Edward H. Knoblaugh relates that a summary of offi-
cial Madrid announcements discloses that the Reds claim to have
captured Huesca 26 times, Toledo 1 1 times and Oviedo 22 times.
It would be tedious to rehearse the text of the communiques
which told of the collapse of Saragossa, Granada, Cordoba and
Avila. As a matter of fact, once the Nationalists had gained
possession of these cities, they were never dislodged, even momen-
* Summing up the year in Spain at the end of 1937, the New York
Times complacently remarked that Bilbao was the only important
Nationalist success in twelve months, overlooking or ignoring the
capture of the rich province and city of Malaga early in the year.
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
tarily. Nevertheless, the Reds continued to boast of their "suc-
cesses" at these points and prevailed upon the newspapermen
to relay their fabrications to the United States. That is why
few editors can study their files from July 18, 1936, to December
1, 1937, without feelings of shame and confusion. If this seems
like an extreme conclusion, let it be compared with the remark
of Eugene F. Lyons in Assignment in Utopia, where he speaks
of the "manicured mendacities provided by the daily press."
The American press in particular has confirmed the accuracy of
Mr. Lyon's observation.
Money No Object to Reds
"Money is no object" has been the slogan of the Red propa-
ganda machine. Few publicity bureaus can reduce a slogan like
this to action, but in the case of Madrid it was simplicity itself.
The Reds in seizing the gold reserve of the Bank of Spain gave
themselves an initial advantage of more than $700,000,000 over
their Nationalist opponents. Although sections of this immense
sum were earmarked for individuals and put aside as private
bank accounts in foreign parts, there was a large residue avail-
able for the purposes of propaganda. For months the streams
of gold literally flowed into every venal editorial office in Europe.
I have related in the November Catholic World my own experi-
ence with a special representative of the "Universal," the great-
est daily newspaper in Rumania. This gentleman, Mr. Ian
Popovici, told me that the Madrid government ofEered to pay
all expenses for journalists who would come from Rumania to
Spain. My Rumanian friend assured me that a number of his
fellow countrymen were unable to resist the lure of this bait.
It is easy to imagine the type of stories that would emanate from
subsidized foreign correspondents.
Constructively, much may be done to give the American pub-
lic a true picture of conditions on both sides in Spain. Why
should there not be a daily special despatch from General
Franco's headquarters or some other point of major interest
Why the Press Failed on Spam!
behind the Nationalist front? The "Reuter's" man in Spain
told me that articles of this kind were followed with eager at-
tention by readers in Europe and throughout the British Empire.
Why should the feature spot be reserved for the despatches of
Herbert L. Matthews morning after morning? Why were the
reports of William P. Carney kept for many months on the in-
side page or in a subordinate place, especially after the facts he
produced were rarely called into question? In recent weeks,
perhaps, due to many protests against the obvious disproportion
of news printed from the two sides, there has been a more equi-
table attitude displayed in the columns of the New York Times.
It is possible that the editorial board did not realize how obvious
its partisanship had become and how easily its illiberality could
be checked and verified.*
Bias of Newspapers
Regrettably, a large number of publishers and editors have
allowed their antipathy for (or valid grievances against) Hitler
and Mussolini to influence their judgment in the placing and
spacing of news. It is no mere accident that the newspapers
conspicuous by their bias, both editorially and journalistically,
have been the New York Times (publisher, Arthur Hays Sulz-
berger), the Washington Post (publisher, Eugene F. Meyer),
the St. Louis Post-Despatch (publisher, Joseph F. Pulitzer, Jr,)'
and the Philadelphia Record (publisher, J. David Stern).'
Other publishers would do well to scrutinize the handiwork
of their headline writers. A number of Hearst papers, for ex-
ample, blazed the Madrid-inspired report that Bruno Mussolini
had bombed the British ship, Jean Weems, across the front page,
Thenext day. no verification of the report could be obtained.
„ r *.f s the war apparently draws to a victorious conclusion for the
Nationalists both the New York Times and the New York Herald-
Tribune, chagrined by the trend of events, allowed their corSsport
dents to redouble their efforts to put a favorable complexion on the
Red "Victorious Retreat" from Teruel.
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
This item was carried in an obscure foot-note. There is no news
in a denial. The damage had been done; the mind of the pub-
lic had been poisoned and no antidote was supplied.
Finally, the secular editors and publishers will do themselves
and their readers a favor by a close acquaintanceship with the
Catholic national magazines, reviews and weekly newspapers.
In some communities the advantages of such a practice are be-
coming noticeable. The Baltimore Sun, for example, often
quotes The Catholic Review. Stories from the Brooklyn Tablet
are frequently cited in the New York metropolitan area. Our
Sunday Visitor is an authentic news source, while the Catholic
Daily Tribune, of Dubuque, the Pittsburgh Observer, the Hart-
ford Transcript, the Southwest Courier, the Denver Register,
the San Francisco Monitor and Los Angeles Tidings are increas-
ingly utilized by editors in the East, Middle West and Far West.
If this trend continues, we may hope that editors in every
large city will devote the same attention to the Catholic press
that they now give to the pages of the Christian Science Monitor,
the Christian Century, The Churchman, The Living Church,
various Masonic journals and the radical sheets. The achieve-
ments of Catholic editors and publishers are a rich contribution
to the journalistic field. Their work on Spain alone has been
enough to justify their existence and a more generous support
of their subscription lists.
Ably served by the N.C.W.C. News Service, the diocesan news-
papers have been successful in securing accurate, adequate and
attractive coverage for events in both zones of the Spanish civil
war. The Catholic World, The Sign, The Commonweal, Light,
Columbia and America printed abundant material that was
gathered by eye-witnesses of the scenes they described. Owen
B. McGuire, Captain Francis McCullagh, Nena Belmonte, Aileen
O'Brien, Arnold Lunn, Edward H. Knoblaugh, Bernard Fay
and Andrew F. Ferger wrote stories as authentic and color-
ful as any that issued from the fronts on Nordi or South. Their
reports will bear the test of history. The details these observers
Why the Press Failed on Spain!
relate were checked and verified. Adhering strictly to the facts*
they did not need to dramatize themselves after the fashion of
some modern reporters. As a result you may pick up the files
of our diocesan papers or national magazines today and retrace
the stream of events that led General Franco from his remote
post on the Canary Islands to his headquarters in the heart of
The news, as reported in the Catholic press, may not always
have been sensational, but it was correct. It was not a succes-
sion of splendid lies; nor a procession of "victories" which almost
invariably ended in withdrawal, surrender or retreat. Catholic
editors and publishers merit the compliment which Edward H.
Knoblaugh paid to the Nationalist High Command at Sala-
manca: that never once were Franco's press officers responsible
for the announcement or publication of false information. It
is a satisfaction to know that at least one news syndicate did not
succumb to what Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott called "the enormous
power of modern propaganda," which has the "rest of the world
This Report would not be complete without a citation from
the jubilant despatch of Herbert L. Matthews which was pub-
lished in the New York Times on February 6, 1937. Mr. Mat-
thews declared: "The battle of Teruel now appears to observers
here to be over, and there are several important lessons to be
learned from it." If I may be so bold, I would suggest that the
most important lesson which Herbert L* Matthews, Ernest
Hemingway, John Dos Passos, George Seldes and Leland Stowe
can learn from the Teruel campaign as reported in the press
is that so eloquently inculcated by Sophocles in the first chorus
of his famous drama "Antigone," to wit, not "to raise the cry
of victory until you've scaled the walls."